With President Trump’s appointment of John Bolton as his new “national security advisor,” don’t be surprised if the Trump administration again begins banging the war drums against North Korea. Bolton has expressed support for initiating an attack against North Korea if it refuses to dismantle its nuclear bombs and missiles. For what it’s worth, Bolton was also a fervent supporter of the U.S. government’s attack in 2003 on Iraq, a country that, like North Korea, never attacked the United States.
Many people are placing their hopes on the fact that Trump has accepted North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s invitation to “talk.” What they fail to explain, however, is how “talking” is going to resolve what are two intractable positions. The U.S. government’s position is that North Korea must dismantle its nuclear weapons program. North Korea’s position is that it will never give up its nuclear weapons because that’s the one thing that could deter the United States from attacking North Korea. Anything is possible, but it’s extremely difficult to see how those two positions can be reconciled.
It doesn’t help matters any that Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who currently serves as director of the CIA, favors U.S. regime change for North Korea. That term oftentimes connotes bombing and invasions (like with Iraq and Afghanistan), coups (like with Iran, Guatemala, and Chile), or assassination (like with Cuba and Congo).
It also doesn’t help that the U.S. government has broken its word and double-crossed people with whom it has entered agreements. The fact that both Trump and Bolton want to back out of the agreement with Iran is a good example. So is Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi, after agreeing to cease his nuclear-weapons program, found himself being killed in a U.S.-instigated regime-change operation. Another good example of a double cross is when U.S. officials, at the end of the Cold War, promised Russia that they would not expand NATO into Eastern Europe and then proceeded to do precisely that.
In fact, what is sometimes lost in the Korea crisis is the reason why North Korea wants nuclear weapons. No, not to start a war with the United States by firing a missile at California. North Korea knows that if it were to start such a war, the Pentagon and the CIA would carpet bomb the entire country with nuclear weapons. What would be the point of starting that type of war?
The reason that North Korea wants those nuclear weapons is, again, deterrence — to deter Trump, Bolton, the Pentagon, and the CIA from carrying out a U.S. regime-change operation against North Korea.
What if Trump and his national-security establishment were to promise North Korea that they would not carry out a regime-change operation against North Korea? Would that be enough to induce North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons?
Possibly, but I don’t think that’s very likely. Why? Because, again, Trump and the U.S. national-security establishment can’t be trusted to keep their word. That’s where the double-crossing and the breaking of other agreements come into play. North Korea knows that if they give up their nuclear missiles on the word of U.S. officials not to initiate a regime-change operation, there still exists the distinct possibility that once North Korea gets rid of its nuclear bombs, the U.S. government then attacks, assassinates, or foments a coup.
The real solution to all this is clear: The U.S. government needs to pull its troops out of Korea, bring them home, and discharge them. The Korean civil war has never been the business of the U.S. government, and it never will be.
The U.S. government also needs to end its half-century-old, post-World II occupation of Japan, bringing all those troops home as well and discharging them.
More fundamentally, it needs to abandon its foreign policy of interventionism and replace it with the founding foreign policy of our nation, which was non-interventionism.
That would be the best way, perhaps the only way, to assure North Korea that they are no longer in imminent danger of being targeted for a U.S. regime-change operation. Such being the case, North Korea would no longer feel the need for nuclear weapons. After all, if war were to resume between North Korea and South Korea, the possibility that North Korea would use nuclear weapons would be miniscule or non-existent since it would make no sense to try to unify a country under communist rule if the southern half of the country (and possibly much of the northern half) is uninhabitable for the next century or so due to nuclear radiation.
What are the chances that Trump will order a withdrawal of U.S. troops in Asia and suddenly embrace a foreign policy of non-interventionism? The chances are non-existent.
What about the American people? While Americans are sick and tired of the forever wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, they still are too deferential to the Pentagon and the CIA when it comes to foreign policy. Thus, the chances of mass demonstrations here in the United States to bring the troops home is minimal.
What about South Korean President Moon Jae-in? He could order U.S. troops out of his country, but my hunch is that he would be much too scared to antagonize Trump, the Pentagon, and the CIA by taking that step. As much as Moon might disagree with Trump’s, Pompeo’s, and Bolton’s provocative methods, he’s not likely to take a firm stand against them by giving the boot to U.S. troops in South Korea.
The real solution to this crisis lies with the South Korean people. They are the ones who are going to pay the biggest price, in terms of death and destruction, if the U.S. government starts or provokes a war with North Korea. They are the ones who should be protesting and demonstrating for the immediate eviction of all U.S. troops from their country. It would be the best thing they could ever do for themselves, their country, their families, and their nation.